It may hurt to do so, but if he has permission from his doctors and the requisite prescription drugs, Joe Johnson may be given to a considerable smile.
The Phoenix Suns, who lost their home-court advantage and one of their best players earlier in the week, moved on Friday night and undid the only damage they could. Johnson, with a fractured orbital bone near his left eye, will not be healthy anytime soon. But the Suns' championship aspirations are sound again after a 119-102 thrashing of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Amare Stoudemire dunked on everyone wearing white and blue and led the Suns with 37 points and 14 rebounds. Steve Nash, the enduringly popular ex-Maverick, had 27 points and a playoff-career-high 17 assists, and the Suns took a 2-1 lead in this Western Conference semifinal series.
"We got one for Joe," Nash said. "We all feel sick about what happened to him."
Game 4 is Sunday at American Airlines Center.
Nash finished off his old team with a brilliant fourth quarter as a wistful crowd of 20,896 -- the largest in the arena's history -- watched in near silence.
He returned to his old home for just the second time since defecting to the desert last summer. His every move seemed designed to taunt his former employer.
The Mavericks had cut a nine-point deficit in the third quarter to 97-96 by the middle of the fourth. Then Nash went to work. After he hit a free throw, he drove inside and hit the open shooter on the right corner on consecutive plays -- Shawn Marion and Jim Jackson for two straight 3-pointers to give the Suns a 104-96 lead with 4 minutes 11 seconds to play.
A Jackson tip-in made it a 10-point game, Nash slashed in for a reverse layup and the Suns pushed the run to 15-0 to put the game away.
Jackson, who replaced Johnson in the lineup, finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, scoring his last nine points in the fourth quarter. Marion finished with 21 points.
Dallas got 21 points from Dirk Nowitzki, but its offense looked out of sync all night. The Mavericks had just 18 assists, one more than Nash got by himself.
The game probably should not have been that close after the Mavericks stumbled out of halftime.
Avery Johnson, the Mavericks' feisty young coach, had a fretful third quarter. His team committed six turnovers in the first six minutes and fell behind by nine points. He called two quick timeouts out of exasperation, sent in the veteran Darrell Armstrong for a stretch when Jason Terry faltered and generally stamped a lot. Johnson also lost his cool over a referee's call and was hit with a technical foul.
Dallas had tied up this series after a tongue-lashing and a takedown.
The takedown was delivered by Jerry Stackhouse, whose midair foul of Joe Johnson in Game 2 left Johnson with a concussion and the fractured orbital bone. Johnson, the Suns' top perimeter defender and 3-point shooter, had reconstructive surgery Thursday and is out indefinitely.
The tongue-lashing came from Nowitzki, who berated the center Erick Dampier for a miserable performance in Game 1. Dampier responded with 15 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2.
It would seem another verbal spanking is needed. Dampier started miserably Friday, picking up two fouls before the game was four minutes old. He got his third early in the second quarter. By halftime, he had played just five minutes, scoring four points.